October 29, 2008 1 Comment
I’m in the peculiar position of teaching Mrs. Dalloway on the day on which I myself am giving a party. I won’t buy the flowers myself, but I will buy candy and beer and lemons and ice. I will clean the toilet and blend egg whites and scrub the floors and make pisco sours and spike the punch to really get at the theme, which is Junior High. (Technically, I suppose I should leave the toilet as is.) Today I’m privacy-proofing my house. How I wish you could come.
Of course I sympathize with your rageful in-class moments. I have one pupil–a repeat from last semester–soft-spoken, sweet, deferential and considerate, who absolutely boggles and baffles me whenever she comes to office hours. She wrote a paper on a famous Yeats poem about rape. The aggressor is a swan. My student claims that the rape was the young woman’s fault. She must have been provoking the swan (this in a myth–there is no “he-said, she-said” version of this story). The essay is filled with startling turns, like how the young woman’s world was small and has now been “opened up” as a result of this event. The rape is “constructive,” she writes elsewhere. The argument culminates with a dali-esque reading of the swan’s wings as Zeus’s “scrotums” [sic].
I am a poor teacher this semester. I stare dumbly. Today I was grading a paper in which the Whitman quote “hold my head athwart your thighs” exemplifies how one holds a baby. I wrote “?” and then “sounds dangerous?” then gave up and turned the page.
I am better. I awoke today in a positively Clarissa Dalloway-esque mood, larks! and plunges! everywhere I went. It felt risky to feel happy. “Shouldn’t I…” the familiar voice kept saying, but something over which I have no control refused to ponder the missed phone calls, uncharitable thoughts, the dusty socks and unfinished embroidery and chances (someone yesterday, for instance, with pretty eyes), the feeling of measured sameness speckling every new hour that will never change because I absolutely refuse to make anything happen. It was all there, but hiding under the bed, like my ex’s boxers. Suddenly it feels like I can do things!
So, tonight, I am boiling potatoes and pleasurably pondering wings and scrotums and in what way they could possibly be said resemble each other.
I miss you, dear friend. I hope to visit soon.
PS–HAPPY THREE YEARS!!!! I am so terribly pleased for you, and toast you from afar.
PPS–What will you be for Halloween?